Monday, January 26, 2009

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Here is the homily for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary time. The story of Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, John and James and invite them to become "fishers of men"
Many years ago a historian working in a biography found the following note written on the margin of a diary: “I will prepare myself and perhaps one day my chance will come”. The author of this note was a 15 years old young man who had lost his mother when he was 9. Because he was needed in the family farm by his father, he was able to complete only 18 months of formal education. Of course living in a farm at the beginning of the 1800s did not give him too many chances for higher education, but what this hard life gave him was a chance to learn about the value of work, sacrifice, faith and hope. And these, more than any other lessons in his life, are the reasons why this 15 years old boy grew up to become a great man.
In case you are wandering, we all know this man. His name is Abraham Lincoln.
I chose this story because it illustrates the message of today’s gospel, the fact that life experiences are as valid and important as years of education. As Christians we can say with assurance that the experiences we accumulate throughout our life are God’s way of preparing us for that day in which our chance will come too, the day in which we will be called to the service of His kingdom.
The Gospel reading gives us an example of this on the persons of Andrew and his brother Simon Peter; and John and his brother James. These men were not educated; they did not know how to speak to big crowds. They wielded no power and they had very little resources. As a matter of fact the only two things we can say about them for certain is that: they had lived a very hart life and the one think they knew to do very well was fishing!
On first sight we might think, "How can these two things be enough qualifications to become an apostle"? But let’s look at this idea more closely: Fishing in the times of Jesus as in our times was a trade which required some very unique skills (I’m sure that right now, many husbands are looking at their wives thinking, “You see... the Deacon agrees with me!”). Anyway… Fishing required knowledge of the stars, currents, the ties, weather patterns, the seasons… In short it required a deep connection with God’s creation, the type of connection you cannot acquire by reading books. Fishing required for them to know how fish behaved in different seasons and what are their likes and dislikes… These were men that knew firsthand how capricious Gods creation could be and how astute they had to be in order to make each fishing trip a success. Fishing required knowledge of ships, sailing and how to make and repair of their own nets and equipment… These men knew the importance of using the right tools for the right job. Lastly to be a good fisherman in the times of Jesus you had to be used to back braking work and have lots and lots of patience.
In the times of Jesus, the common observer might have thought that these ruff uneducated men were the last men you should pick to lead a movement that would change the world for ever. But these were precisely the qualities that Jesus was looking for that day by the Sea of Galilee. Our Lord understood very well that for the business of fishing for soul’s life experiences are much more important than practical knowledge.
And here we must stop and remember one thing: the call to go out fishing for souls is not limited to just these 4 apostles; it is a call for all those that have been made members of the body Christ by the waters of baptism. The experiences in our lives, the good ones and the bad ones, must be viewed not as fate or karma or just random events but as gifts from God, as the way he uses to mold us into his perfect tools for the job at hand.
I tell you my brothers and sisters, you might be going through a ruff time right now, at home or school; you might even be very worried about your future or the future of your loved ones. But think about it this way, what would have been Peter’s reaction is someone would have come to him on one of those long fishing nights and told him, Simon do not worry because all the hardship you are experiencing is preparing you to be the rock in which God will built His church, or to Andrew one day you will be considered the father of the eastern rite and orthodox church. Or to John you will write one of the four Gospels, or to James you will be the head of the church in Jerusalem. These men had no idea of what they were being prepared for when day after day they struggled to scrape a living out of the sea.
It is the same story with us, our past and our present exists so that when the Lord comes calling (and he will come and call!) we can make use of these lessons for the greater glory of God. The good things happen so that we can experience what waits for us in heaven, and the bad things happen so that our pains and troubles might serve to teach and encourage others.
All of the experiences in our life are given to us so that, when our chance comes we too are ready to cast our nests, with Peter and the apostles, for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. Amen!